Oh OUAT, you didn’t let it go. You really didn’t let it go. You could have let us in and let us see. Be the good show we thought that you could to be. Create, don’t bait, don’t tell us no … well, they said no!
In Season 4, Episode 2, Once Upon a Time dips into their well of overused plots and clichés, and just like the above song reference (I promise this is the last one), what once was clever is beginning to feel a little stale. Last week, I thought that Anna and Elsa could fix the problem. This week, I’m not so sure.
The episode begins with Elsa creating an ice wall around the town, which–say it with me now!–means no one can leave Storybrooke. That’s one check in the “already used” column. David even makes a quip about it. Usually it’s magic, or a curse. This time, it’s an honest to goodness wall. I’d say there are no wildlings on the other side, but hey, it’s OUAT. Anything is possible.
Emma, David, and Hook go out to investigate after a blackout sweeps across the town and Emma finds Elsa hiding inside. She tries the diplomatic approach, but Elsa is prone to over reacting. Part of the wall collapses and traps Emma with her. While the cold never bothered Elsa (their reference, not mine), Emma begins to feel it immediately. As she start to freeze, Emma has a heart-to-heart with Elsa and tells her she’s not the only one with powers. She doesn’t have to be alone. There are people who care about her. It sounds awfully familiar to the speech she gave Regina last season … and about half a dozen from the Charmings over the past 3 years (check).
David gives Hook a dad talk (check) and they bicker over Emma (check) before working together to solve a problem (check). This one happens to be saving Emma’s life by finding Anna. They go to Gold’s shop (check), find out some information about an item (check), in this case a necklace, which has some significance to one of the character’s backstory and ultimately leads them to a partial solution (check and check).
This week’s flashback centres on David’s previous life as a shepherd, a fateful encounter with Anna, and a warlord Little Bo Peep. Soak that in for a minute. Anna, seeks out David, a friend of Kristoff’s, to help her fix Elsa’s magic problem. Peep and her thugs show up and try to extort money from David and his mother, but plucky Anna wants him to fight. “Surviving isn’t living,” she tells him.
This backstory had so much potential, but missed the mark completely. I like the idea of Kristoff and David knowing each other in a blue-collar fairytale friend kind of way. I don’t even have a problem with Anna teaching David to sword fight. The part that drives me nuts is that David’s victory to free him and his mother is over two henchmen. Two! She has an army. Yes, he does tie her up, but then he just walks away to find Anna. That’s only going to make Peep angrier. David also tells a really dark and depressing story of alcoholism, which seems out of place in a world of magic mirrors and fairy dust.
David and Hook find Bo Peep’s staff and believe they can use it to find Anna. Elsa is won over when she hears her sister’s philosophy come from David’s mouth. She thaws a hole in the collapsed ice and gets Emma back home. Snow White arrives after a day of bickering with dwarves, oddly timed Star Trek references (he’s a doctor, not an electrician!) and miraculously figuring out how to turn the power back out (even though I’m positive Elsa’s wall knocked down power lines). The Charmings and family vow to help Elsa find Anna because they never give up and Elizabeth Mitchell serves up some ice cream because I am about to.
Once Upon a Time has always been a ridiculous, campy series and don’t hold that against it. What’s upsetting is when the fun of it is overshadowed by clumsy writing. Every bit of dialogue in this episode felt recycled. Every conversation felt like it had happened before. My favourite part has always been the ways they incorporate and intertwine stories and even that didn’t work here. It’s apt the episode is called “White Out” because I’d like to erase it.